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Fire tender contract followed procedure – ACC

(By Mwape Mbwelela and Taonga Mulenga)

THE ACC says the $42 million fire tender deal was cleared by the Commission when it was asked to investigate it because procedure was followed.

However, Transparency International Zambia says it is disappointed with Anti-Corruption Commission’s conclusion that the tender procedure in the procurement of the 42 fire tenders was followed.

TIZ acting spokesperson Pastor Dorothy Mwanza said today that the ACC investigations into the procurement of 42 fire tenders had revealed that processes and procedures were followed.

Mwanza stated that the Commission had noted concerns of the public regarding the procurement of 42 fire tenders, and the construction of the Lusaka-Ndola dual carriageway and the costs involved.

She stated that media reports on the matter had led to calls for investigative wings to investigate these matters.

“The Anti-Corruption Commission wishes to make it known to the public that in 2016, the Commission was investigating a matter relating to the awarding of the tender involving the 42 fire tenders. The investigations centered on whether or not the appropriate procurement processes and procedures were followed in the awarding of the tender. Investigations in this matter revealed that processes and procedures were followed and the matter was subsequently closed the same year,” Mwanza stated.

She called upon members of the public with any new information on the matter to avail the same to the commission to enable it look into the matter further.

Mwanza stated that the commission had also taken an interest in the matter involving the construction of the Lusaka-Ndola dual carriageway and had further urged members of the public with information on alleged corruption to promptly report to the institution as provided for in the Anti-Corruption Act No. 3 of 2012 “as opposed to only going to the media”.

“The commission handles whistle blowers and all other clients with utmost confidentiality and professionalism, ensuring that their rights are well protected. Because of the nature of its investigations, the commission may not necessarily publicise information regarding cases under investigation, but this does not mean that the commission is not conducting its work. The commission reports on investigations at appropriate junctures,” stated Mwanza.

However, TIZ executive director Wesley Chibamba stated that his organization was saddened by the Anti-Corruption Commission’s response on the calls by the public to investigate the $42 million fire trucks tender.

He stated that the populace had been calling on the law enforcement and oversight agencies to look into the matter of the fire truck saga because the deal reeked of corruption.

“Transparency International Zambia (TI-Z) is deeply saddened and rather disappointed by the response issued by the Anti-Corruption Commission through a statement by the acting spokesperson Pastor Dorothy Mwanza on the calls by the public to investigate the forty two million dollar ($42 million) fire truck tender,” Chibamba stated.

“The public has been calling on the law enforcement and oversight agencies to look into the matter of the fire truck saga because the deal reeks of corruption. The Anti-Corruption Commission has responded to the effect that they conducted an investigation into the tender for the 42 fire trucks which sought to find out whether appropriate tender procedures were followed, which investigation concluded procedure was followed.”

He stated TIZ’s disappointment was with the constricted focus with which the ACC was looking at the said matter, which formed the basis on which the investigation was handled.

Chibamba further stated that corruption had many forms and occurred in different ways, a fact with which the commission was familiar.

“The Commission went further to say people who have ‘new information’ should come forward and provide evidence so the matter can be ‘looked into further’. Firstly, our disappointment is with the narrow focus with which the ACC is looking at this matter, which formed the basis on which the investigation was handled,” he stated. “Corruption has got many forms and occurs in different ways, a fact with which the commission is very familiar. Tender procedures can be followed but the process may still be fraudulent or manipulated, designed to favour certain individuals. So looking at whether procedure was followed or not is quite simplistic. Secondly, there is what is called a ‘legal waste’ of public resources, using legal processes to waste or pilfer public resources, which we are seeing a lot of in public procurements.”

Chibamba stated that TIZ was on record to have condemned the procuring of goods and services at exorbitant or non-market reflective costs hence ACC, as an oversight institution, had a responsibility to make sure this did not happen.

He said the fact that members of the public had continued crying foul after they had closed the investigations, ACC needed to understand that there was something wrong.

“Further, the ACC acknowledges that they investigated this matter, meaning they had sufficient information to suspect malpractice in the award of the tender to Grandview International for them to institute investigations,” stated Chibamba.

“We find it rather unfortunate that, like President Edgar Lungu in his statement in New York, they [ACC] are putting the onus on the public to provide evidence. The public through taxpayers’ money pay for the ACC to do their job, and thoroughly so. As TIZ, we will take it upon ourselves, in public interest, to talk to people connected to the deal to gather as much evidence as possible, including requesting for documents related to the contract from the procuring entity and the supplier and subject them to public scrutiny. This should be public information after all. If the owners of the money, the Zambian people, demand for answers, they deserve to be given answers. Accountability entails answerability. TIZ will not relent in its fight to promote good governance and zero tolerance to corruption.”

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